Lancashire has some
wonderful countryside, with mile after mile of footpaths, fells, tracks and
bridleways all waiting to be explored. Every day, hundreds of people take
opportunity to get some fresh air, exercise and to explore our glorious county.
The vagaries of the
British weather however can turn a magnificent morning into a devastating
afternoon. Sometimes insufficient precautions taken against the effects of the
weather and poor planning have led groups and individuals into serious
trouble. 999 calls to the emergency services for urgent assistance have
resulted in the Bowland Pennine Mountain Rescue Team being scrambled to search
for, find and evacuate individuals and groups of people, many of whom have been
found wanting in their preparations.
The county’s first
search and rescue team has been helping people in this way for
years. Investigation of each of the hundreds of incidents during this time shows
some recurring factors to be responsible for what is, in some cases, a tragic
outcome. So who better to write a safe walkers’ guide to the county than the organisation tasked with search and rescue of those in difficulty?
This webpage contains
advice which, if acted upon, will reduce your risk of becoming yet another
emergency service statistic and enable you to enjoy the glorious local
countryside to the full.
energy foods such as chocolate and sweets boost energy levels quickly. Muesli
bars release energy more slowly and are more useful. Have a good balance.
Diabetics should adjust their diet and medication accordingly.
torch and whistle for attracting attention. The internationally recognised
signal for distress is six whistle blasts (or light flashes) per minute,
followed by a minute’s rest before repeating. Keeping going until help arrives.
Experienced mountaineers and
walkers carry a bivi bag or large plastic survival bag into which they can climb
to shelter from the elements.
Tip: In extreme conditions conserve
maximum body heat by using it in reverse manner after first making a few vent
holes in the top.
Naturally you’ll need your map,
guide book or walk notes. A compass is very useful but can you use it?
Global Positioning Systems (GPS)
are readily available these days and aid navigation. Never rely upon them to the
exclusion of a compass and the knowledge to use it. They are fantastic pieces of
technology until the battery goes flat! A GPS is an aid to compass navigation,
not a replacement for it.
Should your group or part of it
become lost or separated, do not carry on regardless. Retrace your steps to a
known point where you can regroup then try again. Never deviate from your route
plan unless absolutely necessary.
Ask for help from passers-by.
Shyness or embarrassment takes second place to common sense.
Light Emergency Group Shelter
Blow your whistle (or torch
flashers) as described above.
Remember you’ll need to protect
your group from the elements now they’re not walking and generating their own
If shelter is close by, use it.
Place a cairn of discarded items on the track before you move - a map case, an
empty flask or toffee wrappers, things you no longer need. This cairn will be
found by searchers and will attract them to check nearby locations.
A small group of
people invisible on the fell side.
The same group of people with a high visibility
waistcoat above their location to attract attention.
Keep calm. Reassure the casualty; provide lots of TLC (tender loving care).
Assess the seriousness of your
predicament and consider the scale of assistance you require. Consider the length and terrain over
which the evacuation will have to be undertaken.
If assistance is required, call
999 ask for POLICE &
MOUNTAIN RESCUE, provide as much information as
possible. Provide the most accurate description of your location as you can –
ideally with a grid reference.
awaiting the arrival of help highlight your scene, make it as visible as
possible with bright clothing or a light from a visible vantage point.
People sat or laid on the ground
lose a great deal of body heat and can become hypothermic (dangerously cold)
very quickly. They need insulating from the ground to prevent this. They will
also need covering with clothing to keep warm.
The group leader needs to be
aware of the condition of the other members.
Helicopters like the North West
Air Ambulance, Lancashire Constabulary’s Air Support Unit or even RAF Search and
Rescue Sea King aircraft, can bring you assistance very quickly (weather
permitting). Don't worry about the cost, this is what they are there for.
helicopters arrival will invariable be announced by its noise. Do not
frantically wave at the aircraft to gain the attention of the aircrew. This
will not differentiate you from other groups in the area.
The recognised ground signal to
helicopter crews is to stand with your back to the wind and hold your arms out in a
all available members of the party stand side by side in this manner, this
unusual image will be quickly picked out by the aircrew as the group in need of
Highlighting of the scene with
bright clothing or lights will also assist. Do not shine a torch at the
aircraft at night - the pilot wears night glasses and you will dazzle them.
DO NOT APPROACH THE AIRCRAFT
AT ANY TIME UNTIL INSTRUCTED BY THE CREW
In this country hypothermia can affect anyone exposed to the elements virtually
all year round. It is brought on by a combination of factors, one being a loss
of body heat conducted into wet clothing to which the wind encourages further
evaporation and heat loss. Secondly, the body’s inability to produce enough heat
to replace that which is being lost from inadequate energy intake and lowered
The first signs
of hypothermia are typically the individual appears miserable (more than
normal!), loss of interest, reduced conversation, complaining (more then
usual!), stumbling and mumbling, feels cold to the touch. If you get this
impression. STOP! Immediate intervention is needed. Heat loss must be reversed
by adding or changing into warm dry clothes and reducing wind driven
evaporation. Energy intake must be stepped up with quick release energy-giving
foods such as sugars, chocolate, sweets and hot drinks.
Only when the
person is fully orientated, warm to the touch and feeling fit to continue should
you carry on. If in any doubt as to the severity of the condition, treat for the
worst, isolate from the environment and get help. Remember, if one party member
can suffer so can another.